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How to: make great reference citations when editing Wikipedia

I don’t edit (or create) Wikipedia articles every day, so I never remember the syntax for writing a great reference citation. Not “how to cite a Wikipedia article” but “how to cite your source in a Wikipedia article”.

So I’m making a cheat sheet that, maybe, I’ll be able to find easily. If it helps someone else, all the better!

Special tags required

Since Wiki code is, umm, in many ways opaque, we need a cheatsheet.

For your citation to appear in Wikipedia article footnotes, it must be enclosed in “ref” tags. In addition, we need a section named “Notes” or “References” near the end of the page, and it has to include a special bit of code.

==Notes==
{{reflist}}

Best practice for your references is to include as much information as possible in order for someone to follow your research tracks. This should have been S.O.P. when you were writing papers in college or high school. And guess what, there’s a template for that!

Create a citation for a web-based resource

We are creating a footnote, not a classic hyperlink. (Although the footnote is hyperlinked to the citation.)

There are several types of “web” resources, such as a web page, a formal news organization article, or a journal article. The format for the citation is similar. The primary difference in formatting between these examples is that “newspaper” will be italicized and “publisher” will not be.

1. News article, whether media organization, magazine, journal or periodical

<ref>
{{cite news
 | last =
 | first =
 | author-link =
 | last2 =
 | first2 =
 | author2-link =
 | title =
 | newspaper =
 | pages =
 | year =
 | date =
 | url =
 | archiveurl =
 | archivedate =
 | accessdate = 
}}
</ref>

Here’s an example of a news citation. If you think you might use a source more than once, give the reference a name:

  1.  Nicks, Denver (23 January 2015). “Activist Defiant After Sentencing Over Stratfor Hacking”. TIME. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
<ref name="timeBrown">
{{cite news
 | last = Nicks
 | first = Denver
 | title =  Activist Defiant After Sentencing Over Stratfor Hacking
 | newspaper = TIME 
 | date = 23 January 2015
 | url=http://time.com/3680594/barrett-brown-sentencing/
 | accessdate = 25 January 2015
}}
</ref>

Second (or third or fourth) uses of this reference, in the same article, would look like this:

<ref name="timeBrown" />

2. Web page, such as on an organization website

<ref>
{{cite web
 | last =
 | first =
 | authorlink =
 | last2 =
 | first2 =
 | author2link =
 | title =
 | publisher =
 | date =
 | year =
 | url =
 | accessdate = 
}}
</ref>

Here’s an example of a web citation:

  1. “CAIL Board of Trustees”. The Center for American and International Law (CAIL). Retrieved Jan 25, 2015.
<ref>
{{cite web
 | title = CAIL Board of Trustees
 | publisher = The Center for American and International Law (CAIL)
 | url = http://www.cailaw.org/About-the-Center/Board-of-Trustees/index.html
 | accessdate = Jan 25, 2015
 }}
</ref>

See Wikipedia help pages for more examples.

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